Colorado Springs played a significant role Tuesday when Colorado Democrats retook the state House of Representatives and were en route to a 37-28 majority.
Incumbent Democrat Rep. Pete Lee, who was well ahead of Republican Jennifer George in House District 18, and newcomer Tony Exum, who appeared headed for victory over Republican Rep. Mark Barker in House District 17, both held solid leads all night. At press time, Lee was winning with 49 percent to George’s 39 percent, and Exum had 50 percent to Barker’s 36 percent.
Both races were part of a small but hotly contested list of Legislative races. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent in the HD 17 and 18 races alone and much more on other House and Senate races across Colorado.
Lee and Exum were part of a large party at the Antlers Hilton in downtown Colorado Springs on Tuesday night and were among ecstatic supporters. The crowd at the Antlers threw out a deafening roar when it was announced that President Barack Obama had been re-elected.
Lee and Exum said all the work, for both their and the president’s campaigns, had paid off. “It’s been a long seven months, but it’s been worth it,” said Exum, who wore a grin for much of the evening. “I feel pretty good. I’m glad this campaigning is over.”
Lee said his race was tough, but a positive one. “It is a sea change to have Democrats in control in the House, in the Senate and in the governor’s office,” he told a cheering crowd at the Antlers Hilton. “That being said, I still believe the best policy is made in the middle.”
“We look forward to making changes in Colorado, especially the economic climate,” he said, standing with Exum on stage.
Barker and George had quite different reactions.
Barker didn’t even stick around his election night party to watch much of the results.
He said after early returns showed him behind that he would “wait and see” what the next batch of numbers were but left the Republican party at the Doubletree Hilton before 9 p.m.
George refused to concede her race late in the night, even as her aides packed up balloons at her party at the Ritz Grill downtown.
“Only about half the votes are in,” George said. “We just want to wait and see what the rest of the votes show.”
George said the Republican loss of the state House represented a “critical shift” and said Democrats will now have free rein because they control both legislative chambers and the governor’s office.
“There’s no checks and balances in a state government if one party dominates our state politics,” George said.
El Paso County Party Chairman Eli Bremer was more incendiary, and said the election results will point the state toward a “radical leftist agenda.”
Lee, however, insisted that he wants to work hand-in-hand with Republicans at the Capitol.
“We’re not making legislation for 50 percent of the state. We’re making legislation for 100 percent of the state,” Lee said.
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